Civil society advocates for a gender responsive budget in Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste's thriving civil society has begun lobbying the Government to ensure all future budgets are gender responsive. The campaign began during a two day workshop on gender responsive budgeting (GRB), organized by UN Women. Approximately 20 representatives of womens rights organizations participated in the workshop in Dili in August 2010 on the role of civil society in the gender budgeting process.

Gizela de Carvalho, Executive Director of Feto Kiik Servisu Hamutuk (Young Women Working Together) felt the workshop delivered crucial practical skills, stating, "Personally, I gained a deeper understanding of gender responsive budgeting, including practical advocacy ideas, such as writing letters to advocate for gender responsive budgeting in the Ministries."

Even before the day was finished, the workshop participants had enthusiastically adopted their role as advocates. Gender responsive budgeting is important because we can use it to show our country's leaders' gender needs, and ensure money is spent to meet those needs, said Fatima Pereira Guterres, from Fundasaun Alola (Alola Foundation). The group drafted a letter to the Minister of Finance at that time urging her to allow greater public access to the budget in order to allow for gender-responsive analysis.

They also wrote to the Minister of Natural Resources, requesting investments from Timor-Leste Petroleum Fund to reflect the different needs of men and women and boys and girls. The group had high hopes of the Minister's collaboration, given the gender-progressive policies he has overseen within his own Ministry, including promoting women to leadership positions.

Ms. Guterres said that the advocacy work would continue, with a particular focus on the domestic violence law which was passed in 2010.  "We will lobby relevant departments such as the Ministries of Social Solidarity, Justice, Education and Health and the Secretariat for Security in order to implement the domestic violence law. We will also form a group to monitor and evaluate spending on the law," Ms. Guterres said.

The advocacy work of the NGOs will be crucial in ensuring the needs of women and girls are addressed in a country where gender inequality is pervasive. Women are disadvantaged in numerous areas, including education, employment and health. Budgeting for programmes and projects that meet the unique needs of women can reduce inequality, and accelerate development. Gender responsive budgeting is an essential tool to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) particularly MDG 1 (reducing poverty), MDG 3 (womens empowerment) and MDG 5 (maternal health).

The Government is expected to give the 2011 state budget to Parliament for approval in mid-October.

The GRB workshops are part of UN Women's role as the lead agency in the Spain-UNDP MDG Achievement Fund Joint Programme on Supporting Gender Equality and Women's Human Rights in Nation Building of Timor-Leste. UN Women is working with UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP and IOM to achieve gender equality and protect women from violence, sexual abuse, including human trafficking, and economic hardship.